Romeo (n.d): Decentralizing for Development: the developmental potential of local autonomy and the limits of politics-‐driven decentralization reforms
This paper points at the missing link between decentralization and local development in so many countries whose decentralization reforms are driven by political rather than developmental goals. It suggests that decentralization reforms in developing countries could be better designed, sustained, and externally supported, if understood as domestic efforts to build “developmental states”, rather than attempts to implement an international “good governance” agenda. It argues that, linking decentralization to development requires a rather specific understanding of local development and of the role of local autonomy to promote it. It also posits that successful development-‐driven decentralization reforms require both a wider national policy for local development, and the emergence of social demand and responsible local leadership. The paper then reflects on why the politics-‐driven decentralization reforms so common in the real world are bound to remain incomplete and easily reversible, but also on why actors who are committed to promoting “local development through local governments” (LDLG), may still remain engaged with such reforms and take advantage of their contradictions. It concludes by outlining how external aid could more effectively support domestic reform champions as they navigate through local politics to advance decentralization reforms that actually promote local development.
This draft was shared by Leonardo Romeo during the EC advanced seminar on support to decentralisation and local governance, delivered in Brussels by DEVCO Unit D2 and ECDPM in July 2012.
The draft is not for quotation.